‘We wish that we could put you out of business’: Governor visits Centralia domestic violence organization


About one in eight Washingtonians have reported being the victim of spousal violence, with injuries most common among females between the ages of 25 and 64 years, households with a below-average yearly income and those without a college degree.

During a visit to a domestic violence advocacy organization in Centralia Friday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee Inslee recalled one such incident.

“To see this was so traumatizing, even just to watch,” Inslee said.

Inslee recalled leaving the Yakima County Fairgrounds roughly “20 or 25 years ago.” Walking to the car, with no one else around, Inslee and his wife, Trudi, observed a vendor strangling a woman inside a food cart.

While Trudi ran to a payphone to call the police, the governor attempted to intervene, though he opted to “try a different tactic” after observing the knives in the food trailer. Only after Inslee ordered food, did the vendor release the woman and demand she prepare it.

“I just remember I was ashamed of my gender,” Inslee said Friday. “Not only was he strangling her, but he asked her to get off the floor and serve.”

According to Inslee, the perpetrator was arrested at the scene.

Sitting next to First Spouse Trudi Inslee, Inslee recalled the incident to staff at Hope Alliance, an organization that assists survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. A 24/7 organization, Hope Alliance offers medical and legal advocacy and operates a 15-bed domestic violence shelter.

“It’s hard to, I think, fathom the level of violence that goes on,’ Inslee said. “It’s so abnormal in some families and too common in others.”

There the governor said Trudi, who advocates for programs and organizations that aid victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and trafficking, is a “full-time lobbyist” for the cause. As first spouse, Trudi has worked to strengthen gun restrictions and other protections.

Last session, the legislature passed House Bill 1715, which expanded training for cops and judges and toughened requirements on suspects to surrender weapons, among other protective measures.

In the current session, Inslee touted House Bill 1902, which Trudi testified in support of during a Jan. 16 hearing in the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee.

“We all know that we do know the names of the victims of gun violence. We do not know the names of the people we have saved by preventing gun violence,” Trudi said during the hearing.

If passed, the bill would implement a permitting system to purchase a firearm and would specify standards for firearms training.

“We think that by having some rational, common-sense training, it can help people to … think about firearms in a serious way, in a common-sense way,” Inslee said. “We hope that that bill can get through, we hope.”

At the roundtable, the Inslees talked about the issues that plague the judicial system, which can result in a lack of adequate support for victims.

“We’re always looking for additional resources. These folks are so creative, and they do so much with so little. And, unfortunately, the demand is increasing,” Inslee said. “So if there’s any way we can provide resources in the supplemental budget, I know we’ll look for them.”

While they aren’t attorneys, Hope Alliance employees will accompany victims to court dates, which can be daunting. Sometimes, one employee said, a victim will go through the legal process without representation against a well-funded abuser who can afford attorney fees and afford to delay and elongate the process.

Inslee said the lack of attorneys is widespread, and a constitutional right to representation means those in the criminal justice system are prioritized.

“That must be at least significant comfort to people in an intimidating process,” Inslee said of the advocates.

He added he believes that the judicial system, either consciously or subconsciously, “assumes a protective role.”

While not “advocating a position,” Inslee highlighted both the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) and the state’s capital gains tax, two revenue sources that could evaporate if either lawmakers or voters act on the six initiatives to the legislature during either the legislative session or the November election.

Inslee said the capital gains funding “may not go directly to these services, but when you reduce these resources, it means you have to make it up somewhere.”

“Right now, a lot of that money is going to school construction,” Inslee said. “But if we lose $200 million to school construction, we’ve got to make it up somehow.”

Inslee also highlighted a plan in his 2024 supplemental budget proposal that would provide a $200 utility bill credit for about 750,000 low- and moderate-income residential electricity customers, which would be funded through revenue from the CCA.

“That’s not a huge amount of money, but it can make a big difference to people who are struggling,” Inslee said, which garnered agreement around the table.

Last year, the group served 1,033 domestic violence and 141 sexual assault victims, and staff members told the governor that the demand for services has increased in recent years. The organization’s hotline, 360-748-6601, received 2,080 calls after hours.

“That is so maddening that you are more important over time,” Inslee said. “We wish that we could put you out of business. But unfortunately, we’re not headed in that direction.”

The rise, the employees said, may not be entirely due to an increase in incidents. Instead, it may be the result of a better understanding of domestic violence and an increase in reporting.

While cases have increased, they have also become more complex and severe, one employee told the governor. According to the employee, the organization has seen an uptick in the number of strangulation cases in the past year.

“I know talking to survivors over the years, many of them don’t know that domestic violence is not normal,” Trudi said. “And they grew up with it, and they marry into it or have a relationship with somebody, and that’s what they have seen growing up, and they just thought that was normal.”